Yesterday, I managed to get Laddie dropped from a trial on a handler error once again.
One of the judges, realizing that I was inexperienced in field trials, and first checking on whether I was interested in hearing his thoughts, was kind enough to explain a concept to me while Laddie was returning with the water blind, even drawing a diagram in the sand with a stick.
The judge told me that although Laddie had taken every cast and had stayed within a reasonable corridor, I had not "challenged the line." Specifically, I had not handled Laddie onto the left side of the line, where all the trouble was, until the last few yards of the blind.
That was true. Quite intentionally, I had run Laddie along the right side of the line the entire blind, which I'd estimate at 210y. I intended to keep him on the right even at the end. I just misjudged the distance on a cast that was supposed to put him onto the little landing area.
But since Laddie remained in a tight corridor the whole way, I thought he'd run a good blind. I'd heard the term "challenging the line" before, but I never understood what it meant. As the judge explained to me, I think that in this case it means, simply, crossing the line.
Later I watched a couple of pros running the last few dogs. They ran almost the identical blind that Laddie ran, except that at around 70y, they cast the dog toward the point on the left, crossed the imaginary line from the handler to the blind, and then, before the dog reached land, cast the dog back over onto the right side again. Even dogs who had more trouble at the end than Laddie had, repeatedly refusing casts, were called back.
Actually, Laddie might have been called back, too, if fewer dogs had come into the series. But with 14 dogs running the blind, the judges narrowed the field to nine, and Laddie was dropped.
Could I have challenged (crossed) the line with Laddie and then gotten him back over on the right to finish? I think so. In any case, I wish I'd realized I needed to try.